Editor's Note: Welcome to Medical Economics' blog section which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The opinions expressed here are that of the authors and not UBM / Medical Economics.
In our increasingly corporate healthcare system, physicians are becoming disillusioned with the practice of medicine. Many doctors feel that they have no control; that the battle is already lost, and that there is no use in fighting.
But they are wrong.
Physicians, working together with patients, can be very powerful indeed.
Take for example, the story of a small group of independent physicians who challenged a powerful hospital organization, and against all odds, won the day.
This unlikely miracle occurred not by luck or accident, but from a coordinated, organized effort by community physicians, in response to a threat to their professional livelihood. Working together and utilizing the resources of their county medical society, these physicians galvanized their community, which came out in droves to support their doctors.
The story begins in October of 2018, when NCH Healthcare, a hospital system in Naples, Fla., announced the success of a small pilot project on a unit staffed only by physicians employed by the hospital. Touting improved quality of care, better patient satisfaction, and shortened length-of-stay on this employed hospitalist-only unit, NCH Healthcare CEO Allen Weiss, MD, told the Naples Daily News that the pilot program would soon be expanding to other floors of the hospital.
This announcement alarmed independent physicians, who feared that they would soon lose the right to care for their own patients in the hospital, or to select their own hospitalist team. Arguing that the NCH pilot study was biased—as the project unit was provided with additional resources like extra case managers and support staff—community doctors asked for the study to be repeated using non-NCH-employed doctors. The hospital rejected this proposal, and despite the NCH medical staff unanimously voting against the admissions policy change, the administration continued to move forward with their plans.
Facing the possibility of having their hospital privileges summarily restricted, the independent physicians brought their concerns to the Collier County Medical Society (CCMS), which represents 600 of the county’s 800 practicing physicians. The CCMS board was concerned and appointed a committee to investigate the situation further and formulate a response.
On November 8, the President of the NCH medical staff and CCMS member Paul Jones, MD, wrote a guest editorial to the local newspaper, asking the hospital to consult the community before instituting the new admissions policy. Within days, he was forced to resign as president of the medical staff.
Physicians take action
With this added affront, the CCMS board decided to act immediately. Along with other community leaders, CCMS President Cesar DeLeon, DO, and Executive Director April Donahue met with a marketing agency to plan a public relations campaign to oppose the NCH hospital admissions policy. In just weeks, thousands of dollars were raised by community physicians and concerned citizens, allowing the group to begin a strategic multi-media assault.